Color field

W – Mark Rothko, Untitled Canvas (1964)

Color field painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to abstract expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering abstract expressionists. Color field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting ‘color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.’ During the late 1950s and 1960s, color field painters emerged in parts of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States, particularly New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, using formats of stripes, targets, simple geometric patterns and references to landscape imagery and to nature. … Mark Rothko was one of the painters that Greenberg referred to as a Color Field painter exemplified by Magenta, Black, Green on Orange, although Rothko himself refused to adhere to any label. For Rothko, color was ‘merely an instrument.’ In a sense, his best known works – the ‘multiforms’ and his other signature paintings – are, in essence, the same expression, albeit one of purer (or less concrete or definable, depending on the interpretation) means, which is that of the same ‘basic human emotions,’ as his earlier surrealistic mythological paintings. What is common among these stylistic innovations is a concern for ‘tragedy, ecstasy and doom’. By 1958, whatever spiritual expression Rothko meant to portray on canvas, it was growing increasingly darker. His bright reds, yellows and oranges of the early 1950s subtly transformed into dark blues, greens, grays and blacks. His final series of paintings from the mid-1960s were gray, and black with white borders, seemingly abstract landscapes of an endless bleak, tundra-like, unknown country. … Another artist whose best known works relate to both abstract expressionism and to color field painting is Robert Motherwell. Motherwell’s style of abstract expressionism, characterized by loose opened fields of painterly surfaces accompanied by loosely drawn and measured lines and shapes, was influenced by both Joan Miró and by Henri Matisse. Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 (1971) is a pioneering work of both Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. While the Elegy series embodies both tendencies, his Open Series of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s places him firmly within the Color Field camp. …”
Tate: Colour field painting
Artsy: Color Field Painting
YouTube:Color Field Exhibit, Color Fields at Deutsche Guggenheim

W -Helen Frankenthaler, (Bach’s) Sacred Theater (1973)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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